Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Unrequited Love - Pennisetum macrourum
Pennisetum macrourum (African Feathergrass)
Last fall my partner and I went on a vacation to Montreal and Quebec City. During our stay in Montreal, I somehow managed to persuade (or maybe trick) him and his friend we were staying with to go to the Montreal Botanical Garden. The garden is worthy of its own post (which I will do someday), but especially noteworthy was one plant I noticed and immediately fell in love with...the above Pennisetum. Tall and airy, it was used in several plantings. It added not only height, but wonderful movement...and due to it's open, airy nature, didn't seem unduly bulky, nor did it obscure or overwhelm neighboring plants.
We visited in the afternoon, which of course is the best time for viewing grasses. The angled sun suffused each bloom with glowing light. I love how long and slender the flowers are, they have a casual elegance I found breathtaking. It was the start...I wanted it...I REALLY wanted it! I searched for a while after we got back to PDX, but without any luck...I found a few articles about it, but no one seemed to be carrying them for sale.
This spring, however, I met a fellow blogger, Ryan Miller, who talked about Plant World Seeds on his blog, gnomiscience. The plants he bought all sounded very interesting, not to mention out of the ordinary...a combination that would cause the ears of any serious gardener to prick up! I immediately jumped to their website, not looking for anything in particular, just browsing. I was practically drunk with delight, you know the feeling when you discover a new nursery with tons of plants that you are unfamiliar with...sensory overload!
Of course, being a grass junkie, I eventually ended up on their Grasses section. Guess what...there was the Pennisetum macrourum I'd been lusting over all winter. Happy ending...right! Not quite. I had my wallet open and was ordering when I thought "hmmmm, seems too good to be true...better check the hardiness". From what I gather, its only ardy to zone 9 :-( During my research, I also discovered its listed as an invasive species in some areas (although I'm guessing only the areas it's actually hardy in...unless its seed are much tougher.
Anyway...I'm putting this out there to my fellow bloggers (especially my fellow PNW and Zone 8 gardeners), have you any experience with this grass? Is it hardy for you...is it a pest?